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George Bernard Shaw's typewriter

douglas adamsernest hemingwaygeorge bernard shawtypwriter

Shawtypewriter0919_2George Bernard Shaw's typewriter is up for grabs at AbeBooks.com — it could be yours for just $8,417.44.

Shaw's most lasting work, the play "Pygmalion" (which lived on stage and screen as "My Fair Lady"), was not written on this typewriter. Because he wrote "Pygmalion" in 1913 and didn't acquire this one until 1935.

Shaw did use this typewriter but for other writing. The seller says that "numerous of his books and articles are likely to have been typed on it," including "William Morris as I Knew Him" and "The Millionairess."

Typewriters owned by famed authors aren't easy to come by. In 2005, Christie's in Kesington, England, auctioned a typewriter that had been signed by author Douglas Adams ("Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") to benefit Rhino Recovery, a nonprofit. It sold for 2,000 British pounds.

Last year, a typewriter that had been owned by Ernest Hemingway came up for auction in Atlanta. It had wound up in the hands of William J. Northen, a one-time governor of Georgia who was a buddy of Hemingway's. "The aforementioned items were given to me while in Cuba fishing with my dear friend Ernest Hemingway and were items from Lookout Farm [Hemingway's Cuban residence]," Northen wrote in his will. None of the other items — a pipe, a cigar lighter and someone else's fishing trophy — took in as much as the typewriter, which sold for $2,750.

There is something aesthtically pleasing about typewriters. Even sitting unused, they're lovely to look at. I wonder whether, come 2040, authors' discarded laptops will have the same appeal?

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo from AbeBooks.com

 
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"Not Pygmalion likely!" (Look it up.)

I totally agree that old typewriters are one of the most innately aesthetically pleasing things on earth. That's why I keep the nonfunctional Royal I wrote my first awful little stories on as a kid around; it's art, and sentimental art at that.

And I agree there a lot of ugly computers out there. On the other hand, the older computers already look quaint and dated and appealing (not in the same way as typewriters, quite, but still), so maybe they will. Especially laptops -- and then there are the writers with really beautiful airbrushing on the cases and stickers and personal items, so maybe. Maybe we'll think those are beautiful someday too -- or the next generation will.


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